Nigeria’s commercial hub is in the middle of election fever. The country heads to the polls on Valentine’s Day amid a Boko Haram insurgency wreaking havoc throughout the north-east. The security situation deteriorated further this week when a female suicide bomber blew herself up at a rally in Gombe, a city in the north-east, a few minutes after President Goodluck Jonathan had left. The presidential convoy was parked 200 metres from the explosion on Monday. One person was killed and 18 others were injured. At the same time, Nigerian soldiers and vigilante groups were trying to repel the Islamist militants’ advance on the northern city of Maiduguri. Boko Haram fighters initially tried to capture Maiduguri a week ago, but were resisted by Nigerian troops.
With a population of over one million, it is a key strategic battleground in a conflict that shows no sign of abating. It is also a city, as with the vast majority of the north-east, that is expected to vote for the opposition All Progressives Congress party, led by the former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.
“Our vote will certainly be impacted,” said Lai Mohammed, an APC spokesman. “It is the responsibility of the government to ensure voter security but they’ve failed to achieve this.” The vote on 14 February will pit the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Mr Jonathan against Mr Buhari’s APC.